My name is Candice Lima. I am a Retired USMC Military Police Officer turned financial counselor for Broadleaf, Inc. As a young Marine who enlisted after being married with three small children, my hopes of the military changing my financial future were crushed with the realization that it was my husband and myself who needed to change our money habits in order to secure the financial freedom we had dreamed so much about.

We began to use a budget, create an emergency savings plan and eliminate several thousands of dollars of debt. In about 18 months we had gone from $168,000 of debt and liabilities to a manageable number without filing bankruptcy. Later, after the military, I went on to work to work for a major bank, where I learned more about consumer credit habits and different account types. Since I worked in a branch located in a low-moderate income neighborhood I spent a lot of time explaining to clients how to use these products to their benefit. I found an admiration for teaching people about finances, which led me to the Care Coordination Program -New Hampshire, where I am a financial counselor that helps military families in New Hampshire with the same struggles and burdens I experienced.  I want to empower others with the knowledge and skills necessary to improve their financial health and build independent and financially secure lives.

I’d like to begin this blog by giving helpful tips and tricks like building an emergency savings – a recent study based on phone interviews of more than 1,000 adults reveals that only 23% of Americans have emergency savings to cover six months of expenses. Worse, 26% of all Americans do not have an emergency savings at all.

How do you build an emergency fund? The following seven tips can help jump-start your savings plan.

  1. Set a monthly savings goal. This will get you into the habit of saving money regularly and make the task easier on your mind.
  2. Keep the Change. Many banks offer a program that rounds up to the nearest dollar and deposits the change from any purchases you make with a debit card directly into a savings account.
  3. Clean up your checking account. Go through your monthly expenses– do you actually read your account statement? Sometimes you will see charges that don’t belong or multiple charges for the same item. Instead of using your debit card for coffee -get a gift card/loyalty card you can load with funds to use at those places. Swiping debit cards for fast food and coffee is a common occurrence and can quickly get out of hand without a proper monthly allowance.
  4. Cut expenses. If there is no money left over at the end of the week or month, you are overspending. Review your expenses where can you save? Lower gym memberships, cut back on streaming services. Review your insurance, maybe you qualify for a lower rate or discount.
  5. Increase income. Having you been working toward a promotion? Maybe it’s time to sit down and request it. Do you have a hobby that could double as additional income like tutoring, crafting or even babysitting? Pick up part-time work or become an Uber/Lyft driver in your down time.
  6. Tax Refund. When you get a tax refund have it deposited directly into your savings account instead of right to your checking. Pay yourself first!
  7. Review and Adjust. After a few months of these changes, assess the progress. Are you where you wanted to be -if not make changes to suit your current situation. A working budget means it is always evolving and changing, if you don’t get it perfect this month there is always room for change and discipline next month.

Everyone needs to save for the unexpected. Having an emergency fund could be the difference between weathering a short-term financial storm or drowning deep into debt. The ability to adapt and overcome the hurdles will certainly place you better toward financial freedom.